TORONTO (July 14, 2014) – Anti-poverty advocates expressed optimism that today’s budget renews Ontario’s commitment to reducing poverty and building a fairer and more prosperous province.
“The reintroduction of Budget 2014 and the commitment to release the next five-year Poverty Reduction Strategy before the fall lays a strong foundation for the next stage of action to reduce and eliminate poverty in Ontario,” said Greg deGroot-Maggetti, 25in5 spokesperson. “Today’s Budget provides concrete investments that can be built upon to improve the lives of thousands of Ontarians who struggle daily to make ends meet.”
The 25in5 Network for Poverty Reduction is encouraged to see that the budget proposes a range of important investments that will:
- Index both the Ontario Child Benefit and the minimum wage to inflation
- Expand dental, drug, mental health and assistive devices coverage to children in low-income families
- Change Legal Aid eligibility so more Ontarians get access to justice
- Increase investment in the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative and match federal investments in affordable housing programs
- Ensure provincially-funded infrastructure projects provide job opportunities to at-risk youth and low income communities
- Increase wages for early childhood educators and personal support workers
- Increase social assistance rates, with the largest increase going to those with the lowest incomes
- Create a new local Poverty Reduction Fund that would provide $50 million over five years to support local solutions to poverty.
The government’s commitment to make health and dental benefits available to all low income people by 2025 was also singled out as very promising.
“We urge the government to act on this commitment as soon as possible. This is the right thing to do for the thousands of people who can’t afford the basics of good health and end up in hospital emergency departments. Every day in our Centres our health service providers see the devastating consequences when people can’t afford the dental care they need and can’t afford to buy their prescription drugs,” said Jacquie Maund, from the Association of Ontario Health Centres.
Despite this progress, the 25in5 Network urges government to do more on child-care, affordable housing and the incomes of people on social assistance, all of which require significantly more investment to ensure the needs of Ontarians are met. The Network also noted that more attention is required to improving the quality of jobs in the labour market, including action to re-introduce legislation to protect precarious workers. These all need to be part of a successful anti-poverty strategy.
In the face of current fiscal challenges, the Budget proposes small increases to personal income taxes for Ontarians making more than $150,000 a year. It also proposes restricting the Small Business Deduction to small businesses, closing a revenue gap that gives large Corporations an unfair tax break.
“We are glad to see sensible changes to make our tax system fairer and take a step toward reducing income inequality,” said deGroot-Maggetti. “They will also help protect the revenue necessary for a strong and successful Poverty Reduction Strategy.”